As summer approaches we all start to think about what we should do to stay cooler while wearing our littles. Ok, so we live in Memphis – once winter is ‘over’, it’s HOT and humid – we get one week of spring and then it is insane. The below information was pulled from the Hot Weather wearing tip resource slide in the BWI Chatter group on Facebook and was written by one of our VBEs, Miranda McGhee.
SOFT STRUCTURE CARRIERS Do mesh panel soft structure carriers keep us cooler? The average wearer will tell you that it might keep the caregiver marginally cooler if at all but that it does help baby a good bit. Some brands that offer a mesh panel include Becco Cool, Tula, Kinderpack, Ergo Ventus, and Lillebaby just to name a few.
RING SLINGS are often referenced when caregivers are looking for a cooler option. In my personal opinion whether it is linen, repreve, wool, or hemp is less important than the weave. Thick, dense weaves will make it a bit warmer and looser weaves will make it a bit cooler but we’re talking about a single layer carrier here so the difference is marginal with the exception of a few super thick and fluffy outliers. Athletic mesh ring slings are often asked about and most of these are recommended for use in the water only. A few brands do seem to have completed out of the water safety testing BUT the material itself is slippery when dry and does get saggy pretty quickly. They’re wonderful to have for a trip to the beach and (if safety tested for out of water use) might suit a little baby, but I wouldn’t choose one for land use for a larger baby (over 10 lbs or so). Light weight 100% linen ring slings are very breathable but can be quite stiff and coarse from new so if you’re buying consider used or plan to spend some time breaking it in. It is wise to look for BCIA compliant converters rather than just picking someone untested off of Etsy.
STRETCHY WRAPS like the moby, boba, solly, happy, and baby k’tan (etc). The moby and boba are slightly heavier weight and less breathable. The solly is generally well loved in summer time as its less common but similar happy wrap. These stretchy wraps are generally appreciated from newborn up to about 15 lbs before caregivers often cite them as saggy and uncomfortable. The safety testing goes beyond 15 lbs (as high as 30 lbs for some brands but do look up manufacturer specific guidelines) and with careful tightening you can often carry a child well past the 15 lb mark in them if you so choose. The baby k’tan has an athletic mesh material version that is supposed to breathe better but do watch the video under the k’tan resource slide in the FB Chatter group regarding sizing as it is tricky to get right.
MEH DAIs (formerly Mei tai) will have similar considerations to soft structure carriers and woven wraps depending on the type you choose. A wrap conversion Mei tai will be a bit cooler in general than a thicker canvas panel one. They are generally tied with the sides fairly open and are often single layer depending on how it’s made. Some converters use an internal skeleton on their wrap conversions so this would take away from that cooler benefit somewhat.
There are going to be a lot of factors that go into what makes one woven cooler than another. The length of the wrap and number of layers over the wearer and baby play a large role. The style of the carry being done can be influential as well – for instance kangaroo has somewhat open sides and breathes a bit better. A back or hip carry will often be cooler than a front carry just due to location of heat distribution.
As far as the wraps themselves go there are several factors to consider: thickness (often measured in GSM grams per square meter), density of the weave (this will vary widely by brand), and fiber (linen, hemp, wool, cotton, etc.). I feel like the importance is in that order (thickness, density, then fiber). Other factors like color obviously come into play to a degree as well.
THICKNESS: I consider super thin to be 180 to 200 GSM, thin 200-230 GSM, medium 230-270 GSM, heavy end of medium 270-300 gsm, heavy 300-350 gsm, and above 350 is super heavy. I made those generalizations up on the fly. The density of the weave will make these numbers feel and behave quite differently.
DENSITY: Some wraps are tightly woven and naturally don’t breathe as well. This can vary even within a brand. Looser weaves will often be softer and more moldable but will also require more care and be more prone to pulls and snags. Preference for looser or denser weaves is very individualized. A tightly woven thin wrap may be hotter than a loosely woven thicker wrap. Some ask about gauze wraps which certainly breathe well but aren’t very suitable with regard to comfort for a baby over 10-12 lbs. Density will be one of the harder characteristics to assess when buying as many owners or shops won’t be able to provide a frame of reference for you. Asking on a large wrap geekery or brand specific forum may be your best bet here. An unusual caveat is ethos breathe blend that incorporates microvents into the fabric.
Linen- Every summer there is a boom in people looking for linen blend wraps because they’re commonly touted to be cooler and while this is often true it is certainly not a good generalization. For example, from the same brand (that is known for its loose weave) I had a 200 GSM linen blend that was super airy and light, a 240 GSM linen blend with a super loose waffle weave (coolest wrap I’ve ever used), a 300 GSM linen blend that was ok with regard to breathability but not cooler than an average weight cotton wrap, and a 380 GSM heavy weight linen beast that somehow was still fairly cool. The 380 GSM wrap had much thicker yarns in the weft and the pattern in the weave allowed it to breathe. That wrap has a twin (with regard to yarn and weight) but of a different pattern and it doesn’t breathe nearly as well and feels denser.
Hemp- From the same brand I’ve owned hemp at the 240 gsm mark and it’s indistinguishable from linen of similar weight as far as heat retention goes. Hemp has an unfounded reputation for being hot and across many brands I’ve never felt this to be the case. It is a hollow fiber and that has been cited as rationale for heat retention but it just doesn’t seem to play out in reality to be that influential.
Wool- there seem to be polar opinions on the breathability of wool. I lean toward wool being hot weather friendly because it is moisture wicking and rather heat regulating. It’s counter-intuitive but the wool fibers often afford a bit of cushion and bounce and I really feel like that helps let the heat filter out. I’ve definitely used some thicker more densely woven woolies that would not be summer friendly but if considered with density and thickness it’s not a fiber to rule out for summer. Wool doesn’t really like to be washed frequently so if reusing a wrap that you got sweaty doesn’t sound appealing then wool may not be the best choice for you for hot weather wearing.
Reprieve- reprieve is made from recycled plastic water bottles. It offers some cush and bounce. It’s reportedly a cool fiber and it’s hard to attest because not a lot of brands use it. Tekhni is one that uses it frequently and paired with a regular weight wrap (not super thin or thick), a medium weave (neither loose nor tight), and the light color that they use for their warps; it seems to be an all around solid choice.
Cotton- aside from being moisture wicking to a degree and generally easy care for washing the weights and weaves vary so widely from wrap to wrap and brand to brand that it would be hard to list pros / cons just based on fiber.
Because you shouldn’t make all of your decisions based on one opinion piece (even if it is mine and so fabulously written) here are a few other blog links. I don’t necessarily support or endorse any of these bloggers for whatever reason – just linking more opinions.